A fitness to practise panel is a special type of disciplinary panel for students studying for qualifications in regulated professions such as medicine, dentistry and nursing.
Medical schools must have processes in place to identify students who are deemed “unfit to practise”. They can issue formal procedures if they believe a student’s behaviour or performance falls below required standards.
Why fitness to practise investigations occur
There are several reasons why a student may be subject to an investigation, for example allegations that they have:
- Acted negligently, putting patients at risk of harm
- Repeatedly acted in an unprofessional manner
- Demonstrated disregard of clinical responsibilities towards patients, colleagues or fellow students
- Abused a patient’s trust or breached confidentiality
- Behaved dishonestly or fraudulently
What to expect
Medical schools, not the General Medical Council (GMC), are responsible for determining the fitness to practise of individual students. However, the GMC advises that students’ behaviour should be measured against the principles set out in their standards for medical education and training.
Some of the questions a fitness to practise panel may consider include:
- Has the student’s behaviour harmed patients or put them at risk?
- Was there deliberate or reckless disregard of professional or clinical responsibilities towards patients or colleagues?
- Is the student’s health or impairment compromising patient safety?
- Has the student abused a patient’s trust, or violated a patient’s autonomy, or other fundamental rights?
- Has the student behaved dishonestly, fraudulently, or in any way designed to mislead or harm others?
What happens next
After the panel have considered your case, there are several possible outcomes:
- No warning or sanction given (you are free to continue your studies)
- Warning issued (if there is evidence of misconduct, but your fitness to practise is not impaired)
- Fitness to practise judged to be impaired, resulting in:
- Conditions or undertakings (i.e. restrictions on clinical practice, agreed medical supervision or remedial teaching)
- Suspension from your course
- Expulsion from your course
If you are issued with a sanction, you will have to declare this when you come to apply for your provisional registration with the GMC.
The GMC stresses that the purpose of any sanctions or warnings is to protect patients and the public, rather than to punish the student. It also advises medical schools on what should be in place to support students through the process, such as clear timescales, representation and the right to appeal.
We can help you
If you are ever called before a student fitness to practise panel, you can contact us for expert advice and support. As fellow medics, we are approachable and realistic and give you guidance specific to you and your circumstances. It’s worth noting, however, that we assist with problems relating to the practice of medicine, not problems that relate entirely to personal conduct.
To talk to us about disciplinary procedures or issues you might be facing, email us or call our student support and advice line: 0800 952 0442.